Category Archives: vegetables

Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns

fiddlehead fern 4It's Spring! Spring is here! This week was all 70 and 80 degree weather, bright sun, flowers, and sneezes. I'm in heaven. I'm also in San Francisco, but that's beside the point. fiddlehead ferns 5 This week I hosted Book Club, which meant I fed a group of people that I haven't cooked for before but who know I write this blog (not to mention the cookbook), which is a scenario that gives me panic attacks. What if they don't like what I'm serving? What if it's awful? What if I fail? My answer to these questions is to make something I know I do well, so I served up a grits bar and a Bloody Mary bar. And, despite my deepest insecurities, it was a hit. fiddlehead fern fiddlehead fern 3To add a little pizzaz to the Bloody Marys I pickled a batch of fiddlehead ferns, a Spring delicacy on par with ramps and garlic shoots. As my friend Katie described them, they taste like a blend between okra and green beans, the perfect taste of this fleeting season. A season I am whole-heartedly enjoying. fiddlehead ferns 2Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns 1 cup fiddlehead ferns 1 cup apple cider vinegar 1 tbsp sea salt 1 tbsp green peppercorns 1 garlic clove, minced Quick pickles: Blanche the fiddlehead ferns and rinse in cold water. In a non-reactive saucepan, heat all ingredients to a low boil. Simmer 10-12 minutes. Transfer into a jar/covered dish and store, refrigerated, for up to two weeks. Cupboard pickles: ed note: These ratios make 1/2 pint of pickled ferns. Multiply ingredients as needed.  Begin by sterilizing your jar and lid in a pot of hot water. Set aside. Leave the pot of water boiling. In a non reactive sauce pan heat vinegar, water, and salt. Blanche the fiddlehead ferns and rinse in cold water.  In your sterilized jar, combine ferns with remaining ingredient. Pour vinegar and salt into jar, wipe the rim down, place a clean lid on the jar, and screw band on tightly.  Process in your large pot (with rack) for 10 minutes.  Remove from water, give the band another squeeze, and allow to sit.  Once the jars have sealed (you’ll know if you can’t pop the lid up and down), set them in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks.  They will stay for up to a year.

Fried Plantains

plantains 1 Last weekend I headed to sunny Georgia to surprise my dear friend Kellie at the opening of her first show in her new city of residence, Atlanta. Kellie, an incredible painter, has shown her work in galleries all over the world, from New York to Germany. And in the years since we graduated from MICA I haven't ever been able to attend one of her shows. But now, with her here in the South just a mere 6 hours drive due West, I had my chance! plantains 5I love surprising people but I'm horrible at keeping secrets which means I'm mostly just plain bad at surprises. So the fact that Kellie was so surprised and happy to see me when I walked into the gallery that she cried and fanned her face with her hands like a teary old lady is pure gold. And a testament to the sneakiness of Kellie's boyfriend Corey, who kindly acted as my accomplice. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset plantains 3 The weekend, in its entirety, was perfect. Beyond the opening we enjoyed two days of beautiful in Atlanta- enjoying the warm Spring weather that felt like summer, walking around the botanical gardens, catching up. That's the best thing about old friends, you just pick up where you left off, even if it's been months or years since you've really spent time together. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset plantains 2Kellie and her family are from Trinidad, and on Saturday Kellie threw a party for her friends and family with mountains of Trinidadian food, made locally at a place in Marietta. It was all delicious, especially the doubles, but I spent the majority of my time hovering over the tray of fried plantains. When fried, plantains, a starchier relative of the banana, are the quintessential summer treat. After eating basically my body weight in plantains at Kellie's I immediately came home and fried some more for myself. I have no regrets. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset  Fried Plantains 4 over-ripe plantains 3 tbsp coconut oil Honey or sour cream for dipping Cut your plantains thinly, about 1/4", and on the diagonal so the pieces are long and slanted. Melt coconut oil in the pan and fry for 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crisp. Serve hot on their own or with honey or sour cream to dip.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon Jam

brussels sprouts 1 One sentiment I hear over and over again is "I hated Brussels sprouts until I tried them roasted." Amen. Me too. Actually, I'm not totally sure I even bothered to try Brussels sprouts until I saw them roasted to a crisp with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a touch of salt. To this day that is my quick draw recipe for sprouts. They're easy, delicious, and perfectly filling. This Thanksgiving, however, I thought I'd give the classic a little bit of a boost. A little something something to make them even more fantastic. Bacon jam. Brussels sprouts tossed in bacon jam and roasted to crispy, sweet, salty, caramelized state of pure bliss. brussels sprouts 2 Brussels Sprouts with Bacon Jam 2 dozen Brussels sprouts Sea salt bacon jam: 1 white onion 2 cloves garlic 1 lb thick cut bacon 1 tbsp salted butter 1/4 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup dry marsala wine Pinch of red pepper flakes 1 tbsp pectin 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar Salt In a large skillet melt butter over medium-low heat. Dice onion and add to pan. Mince garlic and stir into pan, along with roughly chopped bacon. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until onions are browned. Stir in marsala, sugar, red pepper, and salt. Continue to simmer an additional 30-45 minutes or until the jam has cooked down and thickened. Stir in apple cider vinegar and pectin. Simmer an additional 10 minutes and then remove from heat. Let cool slightly. Heat oven to 350F. Remove stems from sprouts and halve. In a medium casserole dish toss in jam and roast for 35-45 minutes or until tender. Serve hot.

4/100: Wayne County Pickled Radishes

pickled radishes 4 One late summer day I sat on the front porch of our family home in Morehead City, a house we call the Swamp House, with my five siblings. At the time our ages probably ranged from 8 or 9 to 14 or 15, my sister Lauren and I at the top and my baby brother Ryan at the bottom. Ryan, bless his heart, was the willing participant in a series of dares in the late 90’s and early naughts. Being the youngest of six with a penchant to prove himself (not to mention the desire to actually win some cash) meant that he would accept any dare thrown his way from doing a naked somersault on the trampoline during Thanksgiving dinner to, on this beautiful Crystal Coast afternoon, drinking all the liquid in a gallon jar of pickles. pickled radishes 1

Our weeks at the Swamp House meant pimento cheese, pickled okra, pound cake, freshly caught fish fried in the small kitchen, big pasta dinners, seafood boils, and, of course, gallon jars of Mt. Olive dill pickled cucumbers. Eight or nine people can go through an alarming amount of pickles, especially when some of those people are teenage boys, and by the end of the week we were left with just the dregs. The brine. Normally dumped into the marsh but on this occasion repurposed for our entertainment.

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Ryan got ¾ of the way through the jar before he started (forgive me) looking a little green. Not really wanting to part with the money I’d bet (because that money was reserved for buying sour straws at the City New Stand) I was torn on whether to encourage him. His success meant an amazing feat of endurance and a lighter load in my wallet. And while I may have started out rooting for his failure it’s difficult to watch someone take on such a task without getting behind them. Ryan was the underdog. He was David and that brine was Goliath. Unfortunately, his story ends a bit differently than King David’s. Instead of defeating the legendary warrior Ryan sucummbed with mere cups of brine left, and puked into the marsh. I can’t say for sure but I’m fairly certain this experience may have soured him on accepting bets.

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Years later that is still what I think about every time I see a Mt. Olive pickle. Mt. Olive Pickle Company, located at the corner of Cucumber and Vine in Mount Olive, Wayne County, North Carolina, was formed in the mid 1920s as a way to save cucumbers that were going to waste. A Lebanese immigrant from nearby Goldsboro by the name of Shrickey Baddour teamed up with a sailor from Wilmington named George Moore to execute his plan of taking local cucumbers, brining them, and selling them to area pickle plants. Unfortunately for Baddour and Moore they weren’t able to scrounge up any buyers. With the help of the local business community money was raised to create a plant that would process and sell pickles and the Mount Olive Pickle Company was born, the fledgling investment of thirty-seven shareholders. Moore became the factory superintendent, Baddour became the salesman, and Wayne County was forever changed.


As we walked through the streets of Mt. Olive in late April I thought about Ryan and his pickle juice and how that act of determination and will was more of a tribute to pickles than the North Carolina Pickle Festival (founded in 1986 by Mt. Olive Pickle Co). In fact, our house in late summer probably has more pickled products than the North Carolina Pickle Festival in its entirety. But that's another story for another day.

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Wayne County is overwhelmingly agricultural thanks to a mild year round climate and long no-freeze season. And while Mt. Olive does employ as many 500-800 workers depending on the season, you’ll also find manufacturing and processing of other animals and vegetables. Not to mention the three local colleges. Its county seat is Goldsboro and it is surrounded by Wilson to the north, Johnston and Sampson to the west, Duplin to the south, and Green and Lenoir to the East.

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It seemed only fitting that for the Wayne County edition of Tasting North Carolina I honor the pickle, but it was also important to me that I stay within the confines of the local growing season, which meant that no cucumber pickles were put up this weekend (though my cucumber plants are doing wonderfully in the front yard garden). I picked up two bunches of radishes at our food co-op; one bunch went into a jar with salt, water, ginger, and rose peppercorns to lactoferment and the other went into a jar with vinegar, salt, ginger, and rose peppercorns to vinegar pickle. My vinegar pickles will be done by the end of the week and my fermented pickles will be done by the end of the month, which means before I know it I’ll have crunchy, delicious, sour pickles just waiting to be thrown in a salad, tossed on top of a sandwich, or mixed into pasta. No drinking the brine, though. Those days have passed.

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Lacto Fermented Radish Pickles

1 ½ pint mason jar

1 bunch radishes

1 inch ginger root

1 tbsp rose peppercorns

1 tsp kosher salt

2 cups filtered water

In a pot of boiling water, sterilize jar and lid.

Wash and thinly slice radishes. Dissolve the salt in the water. Place radishes in sterilized jar with peeled and sliced ginger and peppercorns. Pour water over until it reaches the top and the radishes are completely covered. Loosely cover and store in a cool, dark, place for 10-14 days, checking every few days to make sure everything is submerged. After the pickles have fermented they can be stored in the fridge for up to a month.

Vinegar Pickled Radishes

1 ½ pint mason jar

1 bunch radishes

1 inch ginger root

1 tbsp rose peppercorn

1 tsp kosher salt

2 cups distilled white vinegar

In a pot of boiling water, sterilize jar and lid.

Wash and thinly slice radishes. Place radishes in sterilized jar with peeled and sliced ginger, salt and peppercorns. Pour vinegar over until it reaches the top and the radishes are completely covered. Cover and place in the refrigerator. Let sit 24-48 hours before eating. These will last in the fridge for up to a month.

Slow Cooked Winter Vegetables

vegetable medley Last night we had the great pleasure of hosting new friends for dinner. Ryanna, her husband Nick, and their son are emblematic of the community we've found in Wilmington, and talking with them over dinner and wine was an absolute treat. Rye is the powerhouse behind the local food community Grub, where she aims, one workshop and consultation at a time, to help people find their way back to healthy, nourishing food. She and I see very eye to eye when it comes to seeking out full, real foods that come from plants and animals and avoiding foods that come from laboratories. It was one of those amazing conversations where I kept exclaiming "EXACTLY! I AGREE EXACTLY! Full fats ARE wonderful! Butter is NOT the enemy!" And that we also got to laugh about life, SciFi, family, and the South? I couldn't have asked for a better dinner, I feel so lucky to have found them!  The more time we spend here the more we really do feel like Wilmington is exactly where we're meant to be. vegetable medley 4 vegetable medley 3 I decided to make a dinner that showcased some of my favorite ingredients, so naturally, I served braised shortribs over creamy grits. I also wanted to add a roasted vegetables element to the meal, something that highlighted what is delicious and available this time of year, and also something that complimented the rather dreary dip back into winter weather we've been experiencing. I settled on collards, white sweet potato, cremini mushrooms, shallots, and some of Dan's homemade bacon all cooked in a touch of butter. This kind of vegetable medley is a staple in my repertoire because it goes well with everything from braised meats to a fried egg, and can be made with whatever is available at the market. You could easily add beets, any kind of green, carrots, bok choy, and on and on. Thrown in the bowl along with the grits and the short rib and the vegetables brought all the warmth and earthy flavors I was hoping for along with a host of ingredients I feel great about serving to my guests. vegetable medley 2A note- I wanted to thank you for your patience as posting slowed a little here. Now that the marathon is over (hallelujah) and I don't have 20 mile training runs to fit into my schedule I'm starting to feel like the world is my oyster once again. I'm so excited to dive into the projects we've got lined up for this spring and summer! Slow Cooked Winter Vegetables 1/4- 1/2 stick butter 3 cloves garlic 2 shallots 1/4 lb bacon 1 sweet potato 1 bunch collards 2 dozen cremini mushrooms Salt, pepper, cinnamon, chipotle, to taste Large cast iron skillet or large frying pan Slice your shallots, cube your bacon, and dice your garlic. Start half of the shallots and garlic in a pat of butter over medium-low heat. Slowly add in bacon, a few cubes at a time. Peel and cube sweet potato. Stir in to pan, along with spices, adding butter as needed to make sure nothing sticks. Cover (I use the lid from our stock pot which lays down directly on top of the veggies) and cook on low heat for 15-20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. This gives the potatoes a chance to cook through a bit. Chop the collards roughly and stir in, along with the remaining shallots (and probably a dab more butter). Cover again and let simmer. In a separate pan start a bit of butter for the mushrooms. Clean and cube them and then saute in batches, transferring to the larger pan as they cook. This allows the mushrooms the opportunity to sweat a bit and cook with their requisite space. Once everything is in the pan cook over low heat until the collards are tender, approximately another 15 minutes.

Grilled Carrots

This week I am coming to you once again from the fair city of Baltimore. I'm up here doing photoshoots and (more importantly) to see my Esther put on a show at the second annual Esther Fest, a program Rachael and I created last year at the Museum featuring my spirit animal Esther making latkes, telling jokes, and being (as her husband Morty calls it) a kosher ham. I'm super excited to see her in all of her glory, I'm so fortunate that I was able to make this trip. This is all to say sorry that this post is a few days behind and thanks for bearing with me during this busy season of moving/traveling/holidays! We'll be back to our regularly scheduled timely posting as soon as the dust settles. One of my favorite side dishes throughout the year is grilled carrots. Marinated in everything from sesame oil and soy sauce to balsamic vinegar and rosemary to worchestershire sauce, grilled carrots are a subtle, hearty, and delicious compliment to pretty much any meal. In the summer we make them teriyaki style and pair them with sesame salmon. In the fall and winter I love them with roasted (or grilled) chicken and turkey with a generous sprinkle of sea salt. They're also incredibly easy to put together. Marinate the peeled carrots in the seasoning of your choice for a few hours or overnight and then grill until tender and blackened! Voila, vitamin A!

Quinoa Stuffed Portabellas

This month Dan and I are eating a little differently. Part cleanse, part elimination diet, part recipe-creating challenge, we've cut some things out to shock our bodies and our habits. We're 8 days in and I'm split between loving it and thinking it's stupid. Basically, we're doing no meat, no booze, and low carbs. The low carbs has been umbrellaed to mean both no processed grain and very few whole grains. I really want a super fluffy pancake. What I have enjoyed, however, is the challenge of coming up with meals that fit into this very limited scope. I've been experimenting a lot (I made cauliflower falafel!) and we've both tried things outside our comfort zone. I think that even after May 1st we'll keep some of these recipes in our canon. Tonight's dinner, for instance, is portabellas stuffed with quinoa, feta, and shallots. Simple, delicious, and extremely full of good. Quinoa Stuffed Portabellas 4-6 large portabellas, depending on how many you're serving 2 cups cooked quinoa 1 cup crumbled feta 1 tbsp butter 1 large shallot 1 tbsp fresh rosemary Dash of curry Dash of garlic powder Dash of paprika Dash of pepper Dash of salt Olive oil to drizzle Parmesan to top Cook your quinoa. Stem and gill your mushrooms.  In butter, sauté shallots (sliced) and rosemary (chopped) until tender. Mix together quinoa, feta, shallots, and spices. Place the mushrooms top down on a baking sheet. Fill them with quinoa mixture. Drizzle with olive oil and top with grated parmesan. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender.

Kale Chips

Lately, I've felt a little bit underwater. Between a demanding workload, travel (for work and for fun) messing with my schedule, and life starting to feel like it was going faster than I could keep up, I've felt unraveled. It's not a great feeling, but it happens. And when it does, I often spiral into a pit of comfort food and slouching before I realize what's happened and drag myself out. This week, I'm working on dragging myself out. When I'm feeling lazy or overwhelmed or unmotivated I like to turn to something I know will get me excited. This week I decided to read one of my favorite books, Born to Run, again. About a year and a half ago I read it for the first time and was so motivated and inspired that I started running, seriously. I've loved every minute of it... I was always a swimmer and an active person, but until I trained my body to run in a barefoot style, I was never able to run injury free. Watching my body get stronger as I accumulated miles has been amazing. I've been running consistently for quite some time, even through bouts of laziness or ennui, but that isn't always enough. One thing I love about Born to Run is that it focuses on the nutrition aspects of successful distance running as well as the technique. So, after rereading the book on the flight home, I felt a new motivation to delve back into nutrition. Don't worry, I'll still be recreating the fried chicken eggs benedict we had in San Diego and posting a recipe for Pi(e) Day. Over the years I've learned enough about our bodies and nutrition to know that everything in moderation is fine. But lately it's been more burgers than arugula, and this week I'm trying to reboot the system. So I thought, as I recover from our (amazing) trip and try and get my head on straight, I'd share a quick and easy recipe for kale chips. I made a huge batch last night and I'll be snacking away on these all week. Kale Chips 1 bunch of kale Olive oil Sea salt Red pepper flakes Slicing around the thicker veins and stems, cut your kale down into 2" squares. Place in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle on a tsp of sea salt, a dash of red pepper, and toss. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and bake at 300 for 20 minutes. It took me three of four batches to get through a large bunch of curly kale.

Breakfast Nests

I love eggs. And not to sound like a total hipster, but I loved eggs before they were cool.  Pie too. And toy camera photography.  Not leggings though, I'm totally jumping on the trend bandwagon there... But eggs, we've always been good friends, especially when a dippy yolk is involved.  Breakfast sandwiches, breakfast pizza, pasta carbonara, I love it.  So, it goes without saying that a cupful of breakfast goodness topped with a soft yolked egg is pretty close to heaven in my book.  Egg heaven. This recipe was very much a Saturday morning refrigerator dump.  My favorite kind of weekend breakfast, where you sauté up all the leftover vegetable odds and ends from the week, add bacon and a fried egg and, voila, breakfast.  I started with a turkey bacon cup (it was what we had on hand, usually I'm a real-bacon-all-the-way kind of girl), filled it with chard and onions, garlic and potato.  Then we topped the whole mess with an egg and baked. Dan and I have very different preferences when it comes to eggs- I like mine running all over the place and he likes his firm.  This difference of opinions doesn't usually impact our relationship, (we're pretty level headed people when it comes to our eggs) except for when I make a dish like this where the eggs are all cooked together.  If, like me, your family has varying levels of egg preference I have a suggestion- for those that like a drippy, yolky egg, follow the recipe.  For those that don't, leave out the egg and then top the baked bacon/veggies with a fried egg.  Overcooking an egg in the oven leaves the yolk hard and weird, so I've found, after a lot of searching for the middle ground, it's best just to fry a separate egg. Breakfast Nests (makes four) 8 pieces of bacon 4 eggs 2 cups chopped (uncooked) chard 1/2 red onion 1 red potato 2 cloves garlic Salt, pepper, red pepper 1 pat butter In your pan, cook the bacon until the fat has begun to come off and it starts to crisp.  Take the hot bacon and mold it into a cupcake pan.  Wrap one slice all the way around the inside of the cup, tear the other piece in half and line the bottom. Preheat your oven to 350 Chop onion, potato, and garlic and add it to the pan.  Saute for one minute.  Chop the chard.  Add it in, along with the butter and seasoning.  Toss and cook until chard has wilted.  Divide between the four cups, pushing it down so that there is at least 3/4 inch of room between the vegetables and the top of the bacon. Crack an egg over the sink, tossing 1/3 of the whites.  Put the yolk and remaining whites into a cup.  Repeat with the remaining three cups. Bake at 350 until whites have set.  Yolk should be soft, approximately 20 minutes.

Tomato Basil Jam

As of five thirty yesterday afternoon, I am on my beach vacation. We left Baltimore Friday and headed to Raleigh for my cousin Elizabeth's wedding. After a wonderful and fun filled wedding weekend and lunch with my sweet friend Julia and my mom, we packed up and drove to Morehead City. Today we'll take the boat out to Cape Lookout, eat burgers and pimento cheese, swim and laugh. I love the beach. I wanted to share this tomato jam recipe before I check out for the week. It's sweet and a little spicy, perfect on cheese, eggs, or burgers. See you soon! Tomato Basil Jam 4 cups diced tomatoes 1/2 cup diced basil 3 cups sugar Juice of 3 lemons 1 tbsp red pepper flakes 1 tsp salt After cutting down your tomatoes, combine them with the remaining ingredients in a non- reactive pot. Simmer for 1-2 hours, or until reduced by half. About an hour before you want to can fill two large pots with water. I recommend that you have some canning equipment, at the very least a large pot with a rack and a pair of tongs. You’ll need a separate pot for sterilizing your jars and lids. Bring both pots of water to a boil. In one pot (the one without a lid) place your jars and the lids (not the screw bands). Allow them to boil for at least 10 minutes, but keep them in the pot until right before you fill them. Use a spoon to fill the jars, leaving 1/4″ of room at the top. Use a spoon to make sure there are no bubbles in the jar, and adjust the headspace (space between the jam and the top of the jar) as needed. Wipe the rim with a sterile cloth and fish a lid out of the pot. Place the lid onto the jar and screw the band on tightly. Set aside and repeat with all of your jars. Take the rack from the other pot and place the jars onto it. Lower the rack into the pot (whose water should be boiling) and process the jars for 10 minutes. Remove them from the water and (here’s the hardest part) wait for the ping. When they first come out of the water the jar should pop up and down, but when the jars seals you won’t be able to pop the jar any more. Some jars will seal immediately, some will take a little longer, and some may not at all. If jars fail to seal, store them in the fridge for up to two weeks. The jars that do seal, however, are good in a cool dark space for up to a year. Enjoy! **As with any preservation process, there are risks. If you notice anything abnormal, discard the jam immediately. Botulism is no fun.**